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Aberrant: Stargate Universe - Caine's Leave

Adrian Moss

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Caine’s Leave

I touched down at Reagan International just before 3 p.m... I stood there in a sea of strangers washing past me in my time of personal crisis. Should I go home, or make the call? It was Washington D.C. and I was home.

Let me make two things clear. D.C. is as much my home as every other base and post I was stationed to as an Army brat. It is just a name and places on the map were my Dad happens to be living currently. Six months from now, home could be on the other side of the globe. It was the life I had grown up with and the life I had chosen to make my own. The Pentagon was yet another base in a long line of bases, it just had fewer uniforms and more suits – a lot more suits.

The second thing to make clear was that my Dad is a Brigadier General in the US Army, and I should never, ever forget that. He had clawed his way up the ranks. He had surpassed Grandpa (a man I barely knew because of those base hoping I had done in my youth) who only made Colonel. Dad’s Old Man had gone into the Special Forces in Vietnam back in the day when that was Death to a career. By the time my Dad went to Ranger School things were different. Great Grandpa was a Major General. He had led combat troops in WW II and earned his final promotion right before his retirement. Dad wanted to best him too.

My Dad’s life is the Army. He raised me to follow in his footsteps as some form of validation for all his sacrifices (marriage, relationships, friendships) he had put forth for his country and his career. I HAD to be the same way – exactly … which is why my transfer to the Air Force caused such a rift between us. I was no longer Army. I had betrayed him. How could he groom me for the Joint Chiefs of Staff if I was in the God-Damn Air Force? My Dad thinks like that. He’s a planner.

Why was I in D.C. then? Simple; my Dad had a semi-new wife and she was trying to mend the rift between us. I had met her only once before, when I had left Afghanistan for my transfer to the SGC. I think it irked my Dad that he couldn’t find out where I was being assigned too. Anyway, Janet Caine, formally Janet Rothberg, was a rich Defense contract lobbyist and a Washington socialite. She was good for Dad’s career and he was good for hers. She opened political doors for him and he put military men at ease around her. They were made for each other and I have to say, they seemed to be good for one another. Besides, Dad’s a looker. So is she. I want to look like my Dad when I hit fifty.

Anyway, Janet really took to me on that one week of leave I had last year. We Caine men are smart cookies and she liked that in her men, Father and Son. She promised me she would help out my career too. I was polite enough to nod and say “Thank you” even though I didn’t see that as a possibility. I was in a super-secret facility after all.

I screwed up my courage, said ‘Screw the taxi’ and called my Dad – at the office.

“Brigadier General Daniel Caine (yes we share the same monograms).”

Voice on the other end says something.

“It’s his son, Major Damien Caine. Yes, he has a son. Personal business … I’m his son.”

I love the Army.

I also feel suddenly much younger again – like fourteen.

“General, Dad, I’m in town for a week. Leave. No, I really am a Major. No, I’m not sure what kind of outfit the US Air Force is, but I am sure they aren’t sloppy. Dad, I didn’t call to fight. Listen, if you want I can get back on a plane and return to Colorado.”

I’m feeling like an angry fourteen year old now.

“What do I want to talk about? Us, you know you and me – our careers, what’s next, maybe just spending some quiet time?”

“You will send your driver around? Sure, that would be nice. I’m at Reagan, terminal 3. See you at dinner, Roger. Out.”

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Sgt. Dembrokitz drops me off at the covered part of the driveway of what looks like a Colonial Mansion – Janet’s house. There is no way that someone in my Dad’s pay grade could out a cottage out here in this neighborhood. The front yard is a masterpiece of the lawn arts. The backyard is even better.

I take my suitcase (yes, I have formal clothes) and my duffel up the stairs. I love my new body as I can barely feel the weight now. I move the few steps up to the door and ring the bell. I’m not even finished my first ten-count before I ring the bell again when Carlotta, the El Salvadorian housekeeper, answers the door.

“Senor Damien,” she says in her thick accent. She must be sixty, but she’s hale, hearty and stocky. “I have only now finished making up your room – very nice.”

“I am in your debt, Senorita,” I say with a flourish. “How has everyone been?”

“The Lady has been fine, as have your Father too. The young lady asks about you, too,” she adds with a wink. Did I mention I have a sister?

Well, she’s not my sister- sister. She’s Janet’s daughter from her first marriage. Her name is Ophelia Roan (Janet went back to her maiden name when her husband, Paul Roan, died in a car wreck years ago) and she’s a graduate student in Foreign Studies at Georgetown University. She developed a bit of a crush on me on my first trip. I think it had more to do with my mysterious appearance and secret mission than anything else.

“How is Ophelia doing in school?”

“Oh,” Carlotta waves her hand, “she does wonderful as always. The Lady says all good things about her. She still not have a boyfriend that lasts. All bad boys.”

“I’m not a bad boy and I only have yes for you, my sweet Carlotta,” I grin suggestively.

Carlotta brushes my sleeve with a faux-slap, “I too much woman for you.”

We have been moving toward the stairs as we’ve been talking. She leads me up the stairs while I lug my kit. She learned last time that us military grunts like to haul our own gear. She gave up on trying to pry my bags out my hands after about an hour of trying. We are just setting down my stuff on the bed when I hear the door downstairs.

“Carlotta, is he here yet?”

It’s Janet. Carlotta pushes me toward the door.

“You go see the Lady. I fix clothes.”

I grin and head for the door. I take the stairs two at a time coming down time, I like Janet that much. She’s what I wish my real Mother had been like. Janet is a slight woman, with blondish hair and an elegant almost elfish face. I tower over her, but the flame or her personality is a more that a match for his size. This is a woman that wont’ back down to my Father, who isn’t a character to back much down himself.

“Damien, how have you been?” Janet says as her arms run up my arms to my shoulders. Before I can reply, she adds,

“Oh, you’re a major now.” She looks into my eyes with a burning light, “You may yet make the Joint Chiefs. You are quite a high flyer for a twenty-six year old.”

“I’ve been good. I have a new assignment with more responsibility and I’m working with a great bunch of people – top people in their fields.”

She stores that information in that incredible engine of a mind. Her recall is phenomenal. She leads me into the study and motions me to a chair while she walks around to a desk.

“I hope you don’t’ mind, but I need to get some e-mails out before the end of business today.”

I nod my consent. She’s fun to watch. I know why she ended up with Dad. His ferocious intellect needs an equal. She may even be smarter than he is. Anyway, she types away, while talking on the phone with her headset. She’s playing hardball with someone I suspect of being a Representative. She bludgeoning the idiot and soon enough he comes around to her point of view. I take notes – mentally.

“Damien,” she lets the name roll off her tongue, “come walk with me in the garden.”

I can hardly refuse.

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There was a service for making the garden look this picture perfect. No one person could maintain the backyard at this level. We walk in silence, arm in arm, to the Coy Pond.

“There is a formal function tonight that your Father and I must attend. Ophelia was going to attend as well, but she’s … had some difficulties. He’s old news now.”

And the way is open for me now?

“What happened?” with a bit more concern in my voice than I feel.

“Oh, a lawyer she was dating – very seriously, they were about to become engaged, was caught dating another woman at the same time as my Ophelia.”

I look at her,

“You hired a PI to follow the guy? Damn Mom! That’s pretty hardcore for a man who isn’t even a candidate for a son-in-law.”

Again, faux-outrage, not the real stuff and she knows it. She doesn’t deny it in her next statement.

“When I heard you were in town, I called Ophelia and she already agreed to go with you to the Ball, so be a dear and go with us tonight?”

It’s a Ball now? Does she have my tux ready?

“I have your tux already for you. I knew you would be back after your last visit so I had one hand-sown for you. It’s Italian silk.”

Hand sown Italian silk – no guilt there. Not that I feel like I have a choice anyway. Janet is a fine tactician. I saw the attack coming, but I wasn’t able to stop it.

“I would be delighted to go with Ophelia. We’ll have a bash. Now all I have to do is remember my classic dance steps.”

“Oh, you are a natural. You two will do fine.”

Fine? She’s rebounding and I care for a woman I can’t have. Not my definition of fine.

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  • 1 month later...

We make the perfect Anglo-Saxon couple, the epitome of the Old Order. She is statuesque, fair-haired and cultured in her mannerisms and speech. I’ve become so much more than that now, fitting in has become so easy. Were so many of the people around tonight make it their life’s work and ambition, I flow through with borrowed ease. Hundreds of whispers call to me at every encounter and in an instance I can chose the best of them. With Ophelia at my side, we are natural stars of the ball.

Ophelia is beautiful and brilliant. She is highly educated with an impressive doctoral pedigree awaiting her. She’s that good. In theory, she’s the better educated, but in practice I’m proving to be the most well rounded. Many educated types would be jealous with all that I seem to know, but she’s not like that. Me and Olivia in reverse. Why do I keep measuring her against Olivia?

We walk out of the ball and overlook the DC landscape. Washington’s monument and the capital dome rise up before us. There are gardens below us and stairs to either side leading down and I find myself holding her hand. It feels so comfortable, like she’s my best friend. She sighs and leans against me. Why do I then feel like I’m cheating on her?

“What’s her name?” she says speaking off to the night sky.

“Olivia. She’s a doctor with the command I’m with now. She’s my subordinate.”

“Oh,” she mouths then turns to me. “It’s okay. I know how things like that work out,” and then she kisses me – full on the mouth – with tongue.”

My mind reels. I try to put everything in context. It really is that simple. I can’t have Livy and I have no one else, so she’s putting herself out there to see if anything. In a strange way, it makes sense. She knows I’m only going to be around for a limited time.

“I don’t think I can live without her. She’s a kind of ‘leave the service for’ kind of love.”

She puts her hand upon my upper arms and looks into my eyes.

“That’s bad. I take it your Dad doesn’t know.”

She looks a little self-conscious now. “Sorry about the kiss. It is just that I’ve had a crush on you ever since I first met you and since you came back … well, she’s a lucky woman.”

“Not really. To be together, one of us has to give up what we love doing. I don’t know if there can be a together for us and I haven’t had the courage to talk about it with her yet because I kind of know how that conversation.”

She leans against me and looks out over the city.

“You will find a way, or maybe she will. I recall you telling me you liked your women smart.”

She gives me a playful elbow.

“Were does that leave us?”

“If it wasn’t for her, Ophelia …”

“You can call me ‘O’. All my friends do.”

“O, okay. I would like to see you again O. I know this relationship with Olivia has no chance but I can’t get her out of my head. If that should ever change, maybe there can be an US. I would like that. I would like that very much.”

“I would like that too,” she tells me, looking up into my eyes. I can read the signs. She wants me to kiss her and forget anybody else. Why is it that Ophelia always ends up with the men that bring her pain?

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